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Panem returns in “Hunger Games” prequel

The Ballads of the Songbirds and Snakes, a prequel of the trilogy The Hunger Games, was released in theaters on Nov. 17.
Photo courtesy of Lionsgate
“The Ballads of the Songbirds and Snakes”, a prequel of the trilogy “The Hunger Games”, was released in theaters on Nov. 17.

Nearly eight years have passed since the last movie in the trilogy of “The Hunger Games was released, a time remembered nostalgically by millennials and Gen-Z alike for the explosion of young adult (YA) dystopian media and the rise of iconic pop stars. Now that adolescence and carefree childhood is in the past, “The Hunger Games” series is back with a new release: “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” 

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is a prequel to the original series, set 64 years before the events of “The Hunger Games. For original fans of the series, it holds plenty of references to obsess over, but for those who have not seen the sequels, this movie stands well enough on its own to follow. It takes place in Panem, the capital of the Districts — the nation the series is set in — where the dystopian wasteland became an elaborate bloodbath for the Districts unlucky enough to have revolted against the capital and survived.

This movie stars Coriolanus Snow, played by Tom Blyth, and his evolution from a morally questionable, troubled young man to a manipulative dictator willing to do anything in his quest for ambition and power. The development of his character is fascinating to watch, especially knowing exactly how tyrannical and evil he would become.

This movie underscores the core message of “The Hunger Games: beware of pretty faces, because no matter how pretty and shiny something looks on the outside, it can still be dark and malevolent inside. Snow’s rise to power showcases how much people are willing to forgive for a surface-level impression, much like how in “The Hunger Games,” people are willing to overlook the brutality of the Games because of the entertainment they provide.

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St the beginning of the movie, Snow pretends to be as well-off as his wealthy schoolmates, despite his family, consisting of his mother (Fionnula Flanagan) and Tigris (Hunter Schaefer), having fallen on hard times following the war that had ravaged the country a few years earlier. His family influences his decisions as he guides the District 12 tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, through the 10th Annual Hunger Games.

Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) is a colorful contrast to the wasteland around her, set in a bright flowery dress and armed with a charismatic voice. As Snow guides her through the Games, she and Snow develop a mutually beneficial relationship; she needs him to survive the Games, while he needs her as a step on his way to obtain power.

Throughout the games, their relationship, though blossoming, is built on distrust. Snow’s job is to make a flashy spectacle to distract the people of the Capitol and ultimately oppress the Districts. For both of them, the Games are not the endgame and this tension races through every scene.

Snow finds a best friend in Sejanus Plinth (Josh Andrés Rivera), a classmate and fellow mentor in the 10th Hunger Games. Unlike many of his other classmates and Snow’s mentor, Plinth believes in eradicating the Hunger Games. His values contrast Snow’s darker morals to provide an interesting dynamic between the two characters, and are essential to younger Snow’s transformation into the cold-blooded President Snow from the original series.

The film is divided into three chapters: “The Mentor,” “The Prize” and “The Peacekeeper.” Each chapter explores the world and marks a change in Snow’s character as he shifts into his darker, more ruthless side. Blythe’s incredible acting portrays the depth and darkness of Snow’s character.

The movie’s acting and design are well supported by the musical and visual elements in it. Parts of the movie are sung in person by the talented Zegler, but the musical soundtrack provides a sense of emotion and tension that accentuates every scene. The visual aspect of the movie is impressive: the fusion of futuristic and mid-century aesthetics blend to show the visual progression of how the world changed between the 10th Annual Hunger Games to the 74th.

The themes of justifying manipulation for selfish needs, as well as how the choices people make affect the world around them, are present throughout the movie, showing how people use power to control others and the world around them.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is a gripping film that explores the world of “The Hunger Games” and all of the fascinating characters within it. The movie strips down all the glamor behind the Games, revealing their cruelty and sadism and exploring how spectacle and propaganda can be used to control others. It is a must-watch.

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About the Contributor
Olga Engler, Photo Manager
Olga Engler is a junior and is the Photo Manager for the 2023-2024 school year. She enjoys listening to music, drawing, and hanging out with her friends.

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